After taking a 3 year hiatus, 2016 marked the return and 20th anniversary of Skappleton, Appleton, WI’s annual ska fest. Previously hosted by Laurence University, the venue this time around was Tanner’s Bar & Grill in Kimberly. Here are my thoughts on this event which occurred one week ago today.
[Disclaimer-Unfortunately I missed the first three bands on the ticket: Fairhaven, Beat the Smart Kids and The Holophonics, as I had another event to attend that day. They are not covered in the review.
The Bishops– When I first saw the lineup for Skappleton I was disappointed that there was only one traditional band on the list. I was not disappointed however that the band they chose to represent this sub-genre was The Bishops. I became and instant fan of these guys after seeing them play at last year’s Fistful of Ska in Iowa. Whether its instrumentals that you prefer or the smooth stylings of lead vocalist Mike Bechtel, the Bishops get your feet moving during every song. Great set guys!
4 Aspirin Morning– After reviewing their last album some time ago, I was excited to see what these guys could do during a live performance. While ska in general is a dying breed in Wisconsin, 4AM represented in a big way with their booming horns and crunchy guitars. The lead vocalist’s voice falls in line with others in the genre, however the songs that featured more mellow vocals were more of a standout with this listener. Keep an eye out for these up and comers.
Run & Punch–Knowing them only in name, I was not familiar with Run & Punch’s music. After hitting the stage I was instantly hooked by their punk influenced numbers. I’ve always preferred female fronted bands to their male counterparts and this band was no exception. I very much look forward to seeing these guys again in the near future.
Keep Flying– If ever there was a band that that embodied the pop punk sound more than any on the bill is New Jersey’s Keep Flying. Keep Flying rose from the ashes of the band Survey Says! which I gave a favorable review of their last album. Having a great album is one thing, but pulling it off live is another story. Despite time delays due to equipment malfunctions (broken kick drum and guitar string), Keep Flying delivered in a big way. Featuring a lone trombone as the horn “section” this guy packed more punch than bands with 3 horns. Great show! If you haven’t heard of these guys, keep them on your watch list!
Dan Potthast- There are a few MU330 songs that I enjoy, but it never prompted me to purchase any of the band’s albums. I did however, have the priveledge of seeing MU330 on two different occasions. Both of these shows were some of the highest energy shows that I’ve seen, with the band stringing together several songs, with little talk in between. I expected the same attention to details during a Dan P. solo show but this was not the case. I really enjoyed the stripped down versions of old MU330 tunes along with the wittiness of his acoustic work. The problem was that Dan likes to hear himself talk, and used his time to tell everyone about his “adventures” that day vs. actually playing songs. Too bad.
Hub City Stompers- The reason why I either love or hate a band usually depends on my opinion of the lead singer’s voice. Keeping this in mind, after listening to Hub City Stompers last album (Life After Death) I had pigeon-holed this band as being “just okay.” In what I consider the biggest surprise of the night, this band’s live show was one of the, if not the best performance of the entire festival (of the bands that I saw). Leadman Travis Nelson, AKA Rev Sinister came out swinging with powerful pipes that trump the sometimes subdued nature on the recording. The same goes for the in your face styling of the saxophone and trombone. Both musicians also harmonize extremely well which is not heard on the album. This is a group that has truly honed their craft and I am proud to say that I am indeed a fan. I’m looking forward to their next trip to the great state of WiSKAnsin!
–4 Aspirin Mornings “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” slow jam. This guy can really sing!
-The Women of Ska. Jenny Whiskey of The Hub City Stompers is an amazing talent. She can wail just as much on the sax as she can vocally. Run and Punch’s Anne is a vocal power house as well, not to mention the sweet trombone work from Katie
–Keep Flying’s impromptu version of Less Than Jake’s “Boring Town”
-The smaller than I expected crowd.
Check Out the Bands!